Transliteration Tools for Indian Languages

Do you frequently type Marathi or Hindi using English alphabets . Ever wished you could write your stuff in Devanagari , without much hassles, then you should definitely read this.Transliteration is process of converting letters of one language to their phonetic equivalent representation in another . In simple language if you type ‘kaam’ you should get ‘काम’ . Imagine how easy and fast it would make typing your mother tongue .
kaay kam karato = काय कम करतोkyaa chal rahaa hai = क्या चल रहा है
If you ever tried writing in Devanagari into your text editor then you must be very well aware of special fonts that one has to install on his/her machine. Also the person who reads your document should have same fonts installed. This can be a bit of pain. Well, this is the older way, before Unicode existed.

So what is Unicode ?

Unicode is an encoding standard for characters, that gives a unique number to every single character in every single language. It is consistent across all platforms and operating systems. It means if I write something in Unicode and email it to a friend using Linux, he will be able to read my message, without having to install any special software. This is because most modern operating systems and software libraries have inbuilt support for Unicode. To find if your system is capable of showing Unicode stuff visit this link , you should see something meaningful.Let me tell you, thought Unicode is universally supported these days , you need at least one Unicode complaint font like 'Mangal' or 'Arial Unicode' installed . Generally such a font is bundled with operating system , very rarely need should arise to download them separately.Okay lets get to business. The following are a few well known software packages that perform transliteration.

Google Input Tools

By far, the most popular and convinient online transliteration package. Supports many Indian languages and has already been integrated into Google's online product ecosystem. You can try it here http://www.google.co.in/inputtools/cloud/try/ .

There also exists an desktop version of the tool in form of Google Input Tools for Windows . These are basically IMEs (Input Method Editor) for Indian languages available for many Indian languages. Once installed an IME can be basically used with any program you want like messengers,browsers, text editors etc.

ITRANS

ITRANS is a well known old transliteration software. It works with special Indic fonts which the user has to download before using it. It is no longer under active development. The reason is UNICODE. But if you are using older system then you may want to have a look at it. ITRANS provides transliteration for Devanagari (Sanskrit/Hindi/Marathi), Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Bengali, Gujarati and Gurmukhi. The very first thing you will want to look before using it is the ‘Transliteration Map’. It shows you which letters in English will produce what output in Indian languages. There is an online interface for ITRANS , which was not working at the time of writing.

JTRANS

JTRANS is a package similar to ITRANS , but has been written in javascript. So you can download it and use it offline.It also makes use of special fonts (instead of Unicode) for output. The online interface for JTRANS works really well and you should try it after installing required fonts.

INDIAN LANGUAGE CONVERTER

You all will like this , because it supports Unicode. So you don’t have to have any special fonts installed . Just following this link . Now, there’s a small problem. I couldn’t get it working on IE , but it works just fine on FireFox. On more small problem I noticed was, I couldn’t see joined words properly.For example for ‘kra’ I was expecting the output क्र , but end up getting क् and र seperately. This problem seems to be of FireFox or rather of 'FireFox for windows'. If you copy the hindi text for ‘kra’ and paste it in Microsoft Word you get correct letter! If you are interested to know how ‘joins’ are rendered in Indic languages read this. On this page search(Ctrl +F) for "half forms" of Devanagari letters and read the answer to the question. The FAQ is very interesting.

Indian Languages Type Pad

A cool transliteration software entirely written in javascript by Vishal Monpara. It offers transliteration in quite a few Indian languages. It integrates into your existing web applications effortlessly. Just add the following HTML to your webpage:
 

	<input type="button" value="Type Hindi" 
    onclick="win = window.open('','Comment',
   'toolbar=0,menubar=0,location=0,width=560,height=590'); 
    win.document.write('<script language=\'javascript\'>
    var id=\'TEXTAREAID\';</script><script 
    src=\'http://demo.vishalon.net/HindiPad.js\' 
    language=javascript></script>');
    win.focus();">
     
You can also check out an online demo on his site here. The best part is that this is a free software.

Baraha

Baraha is nice source for Transliteration tools. This site offers you a complete IDE for composing Indian Language documents , which can be downloaded here. I haven't tried it out though. BarahaIME is very interesting, it is an Input Method Editor which works with Windows. Once you install it , you will see a small icon to right of your taskbar. Now start any editor or program . Click on taskbar icon and select the Indian language of your choice and just start typing into the editor/program. One important thing here, if you see some meaningless characters as you type change the font of the editor to a Unicode complaint one. IMEs are a great way of transliteration as it allows you to use multiple languages simultaneously. For example you can chat with someone in Hindi in one window and Kannada in another one.
Menu that appears on clicking on BarahaIME taskbar icon
Typing Indian language text directly into messenger using BarahaIME

iLeap

iLeap is from CDAC ! You might have used it . I have tried the older version . Hope the newer versions support Unicode and don’t rely on special fonts.You can download iLeap from this site . Ileap is the only true ‘editor’ for Indic languages . I would really love to see Unicode support.If anyone has any news on this please write a comment.

Vachak

Vachak is a Indian language Text to speech software . An impressive online demo is available here, which performs transliteration as well as text to speech ! Don’t miss this one.

KICKKEYS

I just found this tool from the internet . I haven’t used it, yet . If you know anything on this please inform me http://www.kickkeys.com/

More …

Implementing a transliterator is not very difficult. If you have descent knowledge of a programming language and have a descent transliteration map at hand, you can make your own transliterator (as I did sometime back). I prefer transliteration to onscreen keyboards.People tend to expect a lot from transliteration , then often confuse it with ‘translation’.I see transliteration as an effective method on inputting ‘Unicode text’ . It can work wonders if used in mobile phones ,handhelds and instant messengers. If you know of more such tools , do post a comment .


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